“Break free” actions around the world aim to break the stranglehold of the fossil-fuel industry.

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IMAGINE the day when oil-refinery smokestacks stop pouring toxic fumes over Fidalgo Island and fledgling herons launch into clean blue skies. That is the vision of the thousands of citizens who will gather near Anacortes on May 13, 14 and 15 to participate in a global action called Break Free.

By land and by sea, by bicycle and indigenous canoe, people will gather near the Tesoro and Shell refineries, the largest unaddressed point source of carbon pollution in the Pacific Northwest. As people gather at the refineries’ gates, other crowds are coming together in hundreds of Break Free demonstrations around the world. Dancing, marching, singing, chanting: They all are expressing the moral urgency of breaking free from the fossil-fuel economy that, if left unchecked, will irretrievably damage the life-support systems of the planet.

Imagine the day, not so far away, when our lives are powered by the beauty that the Earth freely gives: flowing rivers, clean wind, turning tides and the shining sun. Imagine a renewable-energy economy that nurtures the fecundity of the Earth instead of mining it out, protects children instead of sickening them, shares wealth instead of hoarding it, provides jobs without harming workers, honors the rights of the voiceless instead of bulldozing them — plants and animals, the desperately poor, small children and future generations. That is when our fledgling imaginations would be set free from destructive lifeways, to soar in the greatest creative transformation the world has seen.

We stand at the start of that adventure. The first step is to break free from old, world-devouring, soul-souring patterns of fossil-fuel exploitation.

Since 1977, executives of Big Oil have known that emissions from burning gas, oil and coal are a major source of the carbon-dioxide pollution that is trapping heat in the atmosphere and oceans, bringing on megastorms, droughts, dead zones, waves of extinction and desperate refugees. Nevertheless, they have done everything they could — including systematic lies and massive payments to politicians — to undermine alternative sources of energy and ensure their power to wreck the world. Knowingly, intentionally, relentlessly and effectively, they have entrapped our lives and our imaginations in an energy stranglehold. That is the hold that must be broken.

Together, we can break from the inertia of uncertainty and silence, closing the gap between what individuals can do through their choices as consumers and what coalitions of people can do through their actions as citizens.

Together, we can unlock the chains that bind the cowering and compromising politicians who accept Big Oil’s multimillion-dollar “donations.” By our own clarity about the moral monstrosity of causing climate catastrophe, we can make it impossible for politicians to collude with the fossil-fuel industry.

Together, we can refuse to allow Big Oil to despoil wide swaths of wildland and farms in order to move fossil fuels to Asian markets, transmogrifying the green Pacific Northwest into a dangerous, North-Dakota style sacrifice zone of explosive trains and spilled oil.

Together, we can expose the industry’s carefully cultivated fiction that fossil fuels are the only feasible way to power our lives. There are better ways, and we know it. As the smoke clears, we can create a better world.